ATLANTA (Reuters) - Grammy Award-winning rapper T.I. was sentenced on Friday to serve 11 months in jail for violating the terms of his probation after he was arrested in September on suspicion of possessing ecstasy.
“I screwed up. I screwed up big time and I am sorry,” the singer told U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell, who also ordered him to serve a year of supervised release.
T.I., 30, has won three Grammy Awards, most recently in 2008 for “Swagga Like Us” and has been nominated 12 times. Even by the standards of U.S. hip-hop stars, T.I. has undergone a remarkable few years.
In 2007, he faced a possible 30 years in prison on federal gun charges after he was arrested the same day he was due to have starred at the Black Entertainment Television awards where he had been nominated for a series of honors.
A judge eventually sentenced him to just one year in jail after he pleaded guilty and agreed to do 1,000 hours of community service, warning young people about the dangers of drugs and gangs -- work for which he was widely praised.
T.I. on Friday acknowledged he violated the terms of his probation when police stopped him for a traffic violation in Los Angeles on September 1 and found drugs in his car.
But the hearing turned on what penalty he should pay, given that he had already received what U.S. Attorney Sally Yates described as an “unprecedented reduction” in his original sentence. Yates requested a two-year sentence.
Defense lawyers provided evidence that no one has been jailed in the last 10 years in the northern court district of Georgia for a first drug violation of their probation.
They also argued that TI was an addict who stayed clean for years but slipped back into using occasional drug use during a period of intense pressure at work.
To highlight T.I’s positive influence on young people, a university professor testified that T.I.’s music helped her relate life lessons to her students and a fellow member of T.I.s Narcotics Anonymous group spoke on his behalf.
Atlanta police officer, James Polite, also recounted how on Wednesday, T.I. played a leading role in persuading a man not to commit suicide by jumping from the roof of a 22-story building in midtown Atlanta in a highly-publicized incident.
Pannell appeared unpersuaded by the arguments.
“This case was an experiment,” he said, referring to T.I.’s sentence for the 2007 offense. “Mr. Harris, you sure have dumped a lot of smut all over the experiment.”
T.I.’s career began as a rapper in 2001 but he has since branched out into other areas of the music and film industry, finding success both as a producer and actor.
He founded Grand Hustle Records in 2003, which operates as a subsidiary of Warner Music Group.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte